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Marine reserves off Oregon coast win OK

By Brad Cain

The Associated Press

SALEM — A measure to establish Oregon's first two fishing-free marine reserves off the Oregon coast is on its way to Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

The measure to help restore dwindling fishing stocks won final approval Wednesday in the Oregon Senate after supporters called it a fair compromise backed by environmentalists, fishermen and coastal groups.

Oregon is the only state on the West Coast currently without any marine reserves, which are aimed at boosting ocean research and improving fish stocks.

"With this historic vote, Oregon is taking new action to preserve, monitor and research Oregon's vital ocean resources," said Susan Allen of the conservation group Our Ocean.

Under the bill, the first two reserves in Oregon will be small, primarily for research, and the measure contains funding to keep discussions going on the creation of four additional marine reserves.

Both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly for the measures. It was very different from the bitter battles of 2002, when then-Gov. John Kitzhaber first proposed establishment of a network of marine conservation areas to offset damage from overfishing.

Oregon fishing groups and coastal communities largely resisted a broader system of reserves proposed earlier, but endorsed the two pilot reserves contained in House Bill 3013.

The measure creates one marine reserve, where no fishing or mining would be allowed, at Otter Rock off Depot Bay and another at Redfish Rocks off Port Orford.

Four areas still under discussion are at Cape Arago near Coos Bay, Cape Falcon near Manzanita, Cape Perpetua near Yachats, and Cascade Head near Lincoln City.

The bill taps $1 million from damages awarded over the New Carissa shipwreck to help implement the reserves program. The New Carissa ran aground in 1999 and broke apart, leaving about half of the wood chip freighter stuck in the sand on a beach near Coos Bay and the other half washed ashore near Waldport on the central coast.

"Now that's something — an environmental benefit coming from the New Carissa grounding," Sen. Betsy Johnson, a Scappoose Democrat and a leading backer of the bill, said after Wednesday's vote.